Padraig and Aine Brady.

Upset and anger on the streets of Arva at BoI withdrawal

From the end of September Arva will be one of three Cavan towns bidding farewell to their Bank of Ireland branch. Cootehill and Kingscourt complete the trio of Cavan names on the Bank of Ireland’s list of branches to close under the latest cull (see page 7).

The banking firm has taken a decision to close branches in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, as they say “the acceleration in digital banking has now reached a tipping point”.

The majority of closures mimic those temporarily shut during the first lockdown this time last year. When they reopened, there were no/limited counter services.

Bank of Ireland say it has agreed a new partnership with An Post offering customers banking services at over 900 locations across Ireland. The Arva branch has limited opening hours; accessible by the public from 10am to 1pm. The ATM is the only one in the bustling small town.

“We heard them on the 1 o’clock news putting a spin on it,” one retired couple said as they parked their car outside the Arva branch. There is a palpable sense of anger about the way the bank laid the groundwork for the closure. The husband and wife did not wish to give their name, but were happy to express their opinion.The suggestion that the reason for closures is because people are not using the service is met with derision: “Is that the town’s fault?” the lady asks.

Her husband adds: “In the interview on the radio the spokesperson said, on one hand, that [reduced footfall in branches] was the cause, then went on to say this has been planned for the last 10 years. They are continuously telling us to use the internet, then they say we are not using the banks! It’s heads I win, tales you lose.”

The pensioners are worried about the long-term effects of closure on the town: “It just takes footfall out of the town. Ultimately it may just become a dormitory town for Cavan Town.”

Their upset and frustration is a common trait. Bank of Ireland customer George Luke said he found the news shocking: “I’m very upset about it,” he said.

“I changed to them from the Ulster Bank when they closed. The Bank of Ireland said they would not close, that is why I did business with them.”

This month marks the three-year anniversary of the closure of the Ulster Bank branch in Arva.

Last week Ireland’s third largest bank announced it will completely wind down operations in the Republic.

George says there has been a diminution of services in the Arva branch, from the reduction in hours to the limitation of transactions: “If I want to do any business in the bank, I more or less have to go to Cavan anyway. A cashless bank is not really a bank.”

The BoI customer said many locals will miss the service. “It was very handy if you wanted to ask a question. If you try to ring a bank, you get through to a main service in Dublin. The banks don’t really consider their customers, I’m not exactly sure what they consider. I feel sorry for the folks who have not learned to use an ATM machine. They had someone in there who helped people, many elderly people, who didn’t know how to use the machines,” George says.

Ronan Keith of Keith’s Homevalue Arva is another resident dismayed by the development: “Arva is a thriving little town,” he states.

“Because of Covid people have come to recognise what the town has to offer. There was a realisation that they don’t have to go to Longford or Cavan. Now they are forced to go to the other towns to do their banking. It will affect footfall in the town.”

Acknowledging the inevitable move to digital, Ronan still feels the loss of the service is a blow to the community: “To lose the person you knew, the person who you could go in and say ‘I need to get this sorted’, well that’s very hard, particularly for the older generation.”

The retailer says the closure echoes the loss of Ulster bank three years ago: “It was a big loss to see people we know, people who worked in the town for years, just leave.”

Raymond Daly’s Daybreak shop looks across Main Street at the blue door of the bank now scheduled for closure: “It will make a big difference to the town,” Raymond says.

“A lot of people come to town to lodge money, to withdraw money. Its loss will make a big difference. It’s amazing the amount of people who come in to use the services. It will be a big loss.”

Raymond is concerned at what measure will be taken to ensure people have access to an ATM. “It will be a problem if there’s no ATM in the town. You are better with services than none. The post office is a good service. I think the new bank will be the credit union. They will have cards and machines and all the services people want from a bank now,” he predicted.

Bradys of Arva is business synonymous with the town. Padraig Brady recognises the impact of the announcement: “It was disappointing and disheartening when the news came this morning to see a second bank closing in Arva in such a short time. Arva has always been a great business town. That’s thanks to the hinterland of North Longford. A lot of people travel to Arva for business. It’s going to be a big blow to the area, and to businesses in the area.”

Padraig says there are concerns about the knock-on effect of the closure: “If someone comes in to do business in the bank they might get fuel, or go to the cafe, or get groceries. Every business is going to feel the effect of another bank closing.”

The managing director of Brady’s says it’s not all doom and gloom: “It’s important for the message to go out that Arva is still a booming town. We have lots of services in the town. There is a great credit union and a great post office. Hopefully all the services the banks offered will be taken up by those two institutions.

“The post office is open six days a week, it’s opened longer hours than the bank. If the services are available, the town will continue to thrive. It’s bad news, but it’s not all lost. We will continue to work together, keep business going and support each other. There’s great camaraderie among the community and that is something that will continue,” Padraig concluded.

The Arva Bank of Ireland branch is one of 103 branches on the island of Ireland to close.